While we constantly hear from women objecting to the lack of fair treatment in our society (lower wages for the same job as a man, for example), the outcry for equal rights for men, especially in the family court arena, is often dismissed as a case of sour grapes by men who are ruled against. I have been practicing matrimonial and family law for more than 19 years, and have been repeatedly asked if there is a bias against men in the Courts. While I have been quick to assure those that ask that the laws regarding issues such as child support, custody and domestic violence are gender neutral, the laws are most definitely not applied in a gender neutral manner.
I was recently reminded of this in Family court where I am representing a father who has been verbally and physically abused by his wife. When questions by Child Protective Services (CPS), the woman freely admitted that she slapped her husband across the face during a verbal altercation in the presence of their young son, and the child confirmed to CPS that he witnessed the physical assault. The Court was ready to simply excuse the physical attack by reasoning that the parties “are going through a divorce,” and suggested that it was nothing significant. In the meanwhile, there is no doubt in my mind that had the genders been reversed among this cast of players, a man would have been forced from his home by a “stay away” order of protection in a New York minute; but because the assaulter was a woman, no big deal.
How effective is it to enact laws affording equal rights to genders, when the Courts refuse to enforce them in a gender-neutral manner?